Jake Cain is an entrepreneur and writer from Cincinnati, Ohio. He spends his free time driving around the country in his late 90’s conversion van, affectionately known as the “Monster Van” with his wife and 3 boys.
Denver is famous for its lively cities and scenic mountain views. It’s also the largest city in the Rocky Mountains area, and one of the top-rated tourist destination.
The town has a pioneering and gold-mining past. Most of these cultural and historical monuments have been incorporated in the modern features of the city.
Here are some of the best day trips from Denver if you’re looking to spend time outside of Denver and see what other places have to offer.
Garden of the Gods
The Garden of Gods is a thirty-minute to an hour drive from Denver and is one of the National Natural Landmarks. Its red rock formations span over millions of years ago.
Also, the spires of red stone create original formations that span more than a thousand acres. The backdrop of the pikes’ peak enhances the Garden of the Gods to form a breathtaking scene.
You can explore different activities and use the various facilities at the park for an entire day. Revel in the towering sandstone formation that displays the uniqueness and natural beauty of Colorado.
The park also offers mountain biking, fishing, and rock-climbing facilities throughout the park. There are also opportunities to learn about the history and geology of the area.
Boulder is a 40-minute drive from Denver and is a perfect place to visit with your friends or family.
It’s an ideal spot for nature lovers as it boasts of over 30,000 acres of parks that include miles of hiking trails.
Some notable areas include the Chautauqua Park, which is an extension of Boulder Mountain Park, Eldorado Canyon State Park, Flagstaff Mountain, and the Flatirons.
The downtown area has quirky shops, restaurants, and breweries. Visit the Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory or walk down the Pearl Street Mall.
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre
A naturally made amphitheater carved into a rock formation, the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is 25 minutes from Denver. The park, which lies just outside the town of Morrison, was built in 1906, and it’s famous for its impressive aesthetics and acoustics.
Over the years, the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre became a renowned site for festivals and concerts. With the capacity to seat over 9,000 people, the park now attracts people from different walks of life.
You’ll find the amphitheater inside the Red Rocks Park. While inside, you’ll see more red sandstone formations.
Red Rocks provides picnic spots, wildlife viewing, and sightseeing opportunities.
Dinosaur National Monument
Red Rocks provides picnic spotsis on the border of Colorado and Utah. The Monument is famous for visitors from around the world. Founded in 1915, the Monument was meant to protect history, but it was later expanded to include the river canyons of Yampa and Green.
You can start your journey at the visitor centers, take a scenic drive on the Harpers Corner Road, or drive the tour of the Tilted Rocks. You can opt to explore the different hiking trails or go on a river rafting trip and check out the monument’s wilderness.
As a family, you can spend the night in one of the campgrounds and enjoy night skies. Find designated picnic sites at the Canyon Overlook, Plug Hat Butte, and the Split Mountain.
White River National Forest
Featuring some world-class ski resorts, million acres of wilderness areas, and breathtaking views, The White River National Forest is a perfect place to begin your Colorado adventure.
One of the best things about the forest is the plenty of activities available for both adults and kids to explore. Sports fanatics can participate in skiing in one of the 112 world-class ski resorts from November until April.
Hike in the mountain trails and experience the iconic views, dazzling lakes, and the rough terrain. Spend a night under the stars with your loved ones or go hunting and fishing in the freshwater lakes.
Some areas are tailored for game and bird hunting. You won’t lack an activity to participate in in the 2.3 million acres of land.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is three hours and 40 minutes from Denver. Hidden in Southern Colorado, the park boasts of the tallest dunes that consist of grasslands, forest, and tundra.
Unlike other parks that offer camping and hiking, the Great Sand Park provides something different.
Visitors get a chance to ride a sand sled down the dune peaks, enjoy a night full of stars, and splash in the creek at the base.
You can also climb the tallest sand dune, go on an off-roading adventure up the Medano Pass Primitive Road, or go waterfall chasing with a hike to Zapata Falls.
While here, you can also discover the natural beauty of Alpine Lakes or have a sandy photoshoot that captures the beautiful landscapes, mountain ranges, and sunsets.
Another perfect way to spend your time out of Denver is to visit Pikes Peak. Get to experience the beauty of Colorado Springs by driving up the summit. It’s one of the best ways to overcome your fear of heights.
You can also take a hike to the summit and enjoy the breathtaking views. The Pikes Peak also allows you to explore the trail at Devil’s playground.
Embrace Colorado’s fishing season by heating the summit. You can fish for cutthroat, rainbow, and brook trout from the various reservoirs.
Take a thrilling bicycle tour with the Pikes Peak Mountain Bike Tours. If you brought your loved ones, you could have a picnic with a view at Crystal Reservoir.
There are gift shops, bathrooms, and other amenities at the picnic areas for a relaxing day of fun. Capture breathtaking photos at Mt Princeton, Pikes Peak Summit, or the Tarryall Mountains.
While here, you can spot wildlife around every turn.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Ranked as the fourth-best Zoo by USA Today Readers’ Choice Contest, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is home to over 170 species and 700 animals.
You can visit the Zoo in winter and in the summertime. The zoo offers a range of activities like walks, 5K races, and unique animal cameras.
Children will have fun at the Animal Art that consists of artwork created by the animals. You also get to see your most beloved animals face to face. The zoo is close to the Will Rogers Monument that opens to incredible views onto Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak.
Colorado National Monument
The Colorado National Monument was formed through a prehistoric plate movement as a result of environmental volatility.
Locals refer to this place as the Monument, and it’s a popular place for them to hang out. You can cruise for views along Rim Rock Drive while enjoying bird’s eye views. Visitors can also explore the popular hiking trails like The Devil’s Kitchen Trail and the Canyon Rim Trail.
Camping lovers will find the scenic campgrounds a fun way to spend their nights stargazing. Cycling is also available on the route referred to as the Tour of the Moon that consists of a 2300ft. elevation climb.
Get in touch with your inner climber by clambering the rock formations of the Monument. Learn about the park from the rangers who educate visitors about geology, history, wildlife, and paleontology of the park.
Hanging Lake Trail
The Hanging Lake Trail in Colorado is one of the most beautiful lakes that consists of a short hike. With this trail in Glenwood Canyon, you get an outstanding view of the Hanging Lake, the beautiful waterfalls, and crystal-clear water.
You can go hiking up this trail but expect rocky terrain and steep parts. The famous historical landmark has more than 100,000 people each year.
Note that fishing, swimming, and walking on the fallen trees are not allowed. However, you can enjoy the local vapor caves and hot springs or experience the thrills of Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.
Canon City is an hour’s drive from Denver with a lot to offer despite its size.
The high desert town is famous for its prisons and the Royal Gorge. With the narrowest point at 50 ft, the Gorge is a beautiful sight to behold.
You can walk across the suspension bridges, go zip lining on the highest line, or ride the Sky Coaster over the edge of the cliffs.
Explore all the history behind the Royal Gorge at the Museum. A visit to the city isn’t complete without a whitewater rafting trip on the Arkansas River.
Families with young kids can go for family float trips through the Royal Gorge.
You have to experience the tour around the museum that has a history of a dinosaur fossil. Mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, and wine tasting are some other activities you can participate in while in Canon City.
Bear Creek Canyon
The Bear Creek Canyon or Trail is near Telluride, Colorado. Explore several activities all year round. As a hiking enthusiast, you’ll find the trail that winds its way through the Bear Creek Preserve beautiful and with scenic views.
Enjoy the natural beauty of Colorado as you drive into the mountain parks. You can stopover for refreshments along the way.
National Museum of World War II Aviation
The National Museum of World War II is an hour and a half drive from Denver. It has exhibits that showcase the role of aircraft in the Second World War.
With over 3,000 items on display, the Museum that is located in Colorado Springs seeks to educate the public on the role they played and their impact.
The vehicles and aircraft have been restored to driving and flying conditions.
Kids will love checking out the military aircraft ranges that include flying boats, fighters, propeller-driven trainers, and jet-powered fighters.
Fish Creek Falls
The Fish Creek Falls features four trails that include a challenging trail and a short walk to the lower falls. Enjoy the stunning view of the legendary falls from the two shorter paths.
You can opt to go during winter to watch ice climbers or during the spring when the mountains’ snow melts. Hiking to Long Lake is a popular activity, although it can be a strenuous activity.
Those seeking a relaxed afternoon and the thrill-seekers have plenty of activities to explore.
Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site
If you’re looking to learn more about what life was like in the 1800s, you’ll want to check out Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site.
The Fort was built in 1833 for Arapaho and Local Cheyenne Indian tribes. While here, you can watch a 20-minute documentary film about travelers and tribes.
There are guided tours of the historic site. Visitors can also explore the Fort’s hiking trail that is also home to different species of birds.
Special events like holiday celebrations and the Fur Trade Encampment are available.
Vail has a rich history as a skier’s paradise, having been established in the 1960s. The town that’s on the base of Vail Mountain is part of White River National Forest. It’s also part of the tallest mountain in Colorado.
With 193 marked trails and 33 lifts, the mountain has a resort town that has tourists and skiers. The pedestrian walkways connect various sections that have spas, restaurants, and shops.
Other activities you can explore include gondola rides, tubing, trampolining, and ziplining.
You can also wander and meditate in the Alpine Gardens, watch a show at the Gerald Ford Amphitheater, go on a hunt in Vail’s Children’s Garden, or admire public art.
Snowboarding and skiing are also available for visitors of all ability levels. The town has a postcard-perfect pedestrian street lined with stores and houses built in Alpine village style of the 60s.
While Denver has a lot to offer, you can take trips outside to explore other beautiful destinations. The above day trips from Denver will have you on the road in two hours or less. In no time, you’ll be enjoying all the sights that lie just outside the city’s limits.
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